Sleep Apnea and Orthodontics (3 QUICK READ FACTUALS)

In the USA today, there are at least 18 million adults who suffer from disruptive sleep apnea. Not to mention children have this sleep disorder too. In most cases, it disturbs sleep and in rare cases it is serious. Doctors across the medical spectrum aim to try and cure or at least lessen the impact of this disorder. Orthodontics is no exception. In this post, we’ll point out the facts on sleep apnea and what you can try and do to defeat it. Let’s get going.


sleep apnea

Woman in bed wearing sleeping mask


What is Sleep Apnea?

It is a condition that interrupts breathing during sleep. These interruptions can last for seconds and even minutes. This disruption affects the health spectrum. Tiredness and lethargy from the continuous interruptions and lack of restful sleep cause issues across the board.


What are the Symptoms?

Snoring. This is the main symptom and one that makes sleep apnea plain. The volume of the snoring sound is also evident in the severity of the condition. It is important to note, that, if you snore it is not sleep apnea. Check with a medical professional on why you snore.
Sleep apnea is a non-fatal issue but carries side effects, some of which are serious. This disorder can in some cases lead to:
  • Repeated heart attacks & heart failures
  • A stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Depressive feelings
It is important to note, the above isn’t caused by this condition. Yet, pre-existing conditions can be accelerated by it.
Tiredness is the main issue with people who suffer from this condition. This occurs because the sleep itself is not restful. This results in insufficient rest for the body and mind. Also, the partners of those with sleep apnea suffer too. Their sleep interrupted by the commotion.

Types of Sleep Apnea

The issue is caused by blockages. These occur in two areas. Plus, there are three types of this condition The type will depend on where the blockages are.


Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This is the most common form of the disorder. It will occur when the muscles in the back of the throat relax. The tonsils, soft palate, tongue and sides of the throat are all affected by this. If the muscles relax too much, the airway narrows and breathing difficulties ensue.



If the muscles relax too much, the airway narrows and breathing difficulties ensue.



With airway narrowing issues the brain automatically sends a message to breathe with the nose. The switch will correct the issue but disrupts sleep. The disruption can occur five to thirty times per hour.


Central Sleep Apnea

This is a less common form of the disorder. The transmission from brain to muscle needed for breathing does not occur. Any effort to breathe is for a small period of time interrupted.


Complex Sleep Apnea

This occurs when a person suffers from both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.





Orthodontic Causes of Sleep Apnea

Muscles make up the mainstay of this disorder. Orthodontic issues are also to blame. Some common forms of orthodontic sleep apnea are:

If an orthodontic issue is at fault an expert in this field is required. An orthodontist will be able to correct the underlying issue. They will recommend a device to correct it.


Orthodontic Treatments of Sleep Apnea

It all depends on the exact orthodontic issue that’s causing issues. There exist three different types of dental appliances for sleep apnea. They are:



Braces can treat obstructive sleep apnea. They will move teeth into a correct and natural position. The movement works in a methodical and gradual way. Teeth will move into a position that doesn’t block the airway. This type of treatment is good for adults and children alike.

Modern braces also come in aligner form. This means you can correct teeth alignment without wires and brackets. Avoiding filling up your mouth.


A Rapid Palate Expander

This is sometimes used to treat obstructive sleep apnea issues in children. Affixed to the upper molars by cemented bands or bonding the mouth shape widens. The sole purpose of a rapid palate expander is to widen the space in the upper jaw.


A Mandibular Advancement Splint

This is a custom-fit brace. This will change the jaw alignment during sleep. The device moves the lower jaw slightly forward and downward. Thus widening the airway, reducing obstructive sleep apnea symptoms.



Given the medical aspect of this disorder, medical bodies in all sectors regard this as treatable. So your insurance may cover basic care like a CPAP machine. Otherwise, seek advice from an orthodontist about fitting braces. You’ll find out and whether your insurance covers this type of treatment.




Correcting orthodontic issues are key to good health. We understand what it takes to keep teeth straight for both aesthetic and medical issues.

Whether you want to get full orthodontic perfection or correct crookedness. Or issues causing sleep apnea, we can advise you. Get in touch with our office today to schedule your first appointment with Dr. McDermott.

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